Will Airtel’s advertising foray give impetus to India’s $10 billion ad market?

Airtel recently forayed into the advertising business with their ad-tech platform – Airtel Ads. The telco has created a single platform to serve ads to its 320 million customers spread across its digital apps, DTH, connected box as well as call/SMS. There are two clear areas where Airtel’s advertising platform stands out. It has access to a rich set of customer data and can profile customers across a multitude of behaviours. Secondly, it boasts of a premium user base with latest ARPU at Rs 166, which is the highest in the industry. Airtel is poised to give a greater depth of reach to advertisers.

Also read: Airtel enters the Ad Tech industry with Airtel Ads

The telco claims that it is resilient to ad fraud and delivers transparent results to the advertiser. It may also deliver results across the marketing funnel by offering diversified solutions to clients. It has collaborated with 100+ brands, delivering 8 billion+ impressions per month and generating Rs 100 crore in annualised revenue.

Airtel believes it solves three major challenges for advertisers with its product:

  1. Access to the hinterlands as roughly 50% of Airtel customers are 2G users
  2. Access to premium customers
  3. Resilience to ad fraud, where 20% of all mobile advertising spends is wasted on fraudulent clicks and impressions

By controlling the supply chain, does Airtel pose a threat to programmatic advertising platforms, third party bulk SMS services and ad fraud detection companies? The industry reacts.

According to Vibhor Mehrotra, Vice President – Digital Media Planning, Zenith India, “Airtel’s adtech offering is one of its kind much awaited opportunity for agencies and brand marketers alike, because it powers a punch of data cohorts across an ecosystem which Airtel has created over a period of time. This offering is in similar lines of Amobee in Singapore (powering via Singtel) or Verizon in the US (leveraging platform ecosystem of AOL and Yahoo). With audience coverage of 320 million+, Airtel Ads may soon be in a good position in India’s digital marketing ecosystem, assuming they strengthen their offering by ensuring data privacy, BAV (brand safety, ad-fraud and viewability) and attribution. 

“In the end, everyone is chasing a similar audience, but the money will follow the trail of smart targeting, measurability and minimal ad fraud,” Mehrotra added.

He further felt that Airtel Ads’ offering could have an impact on third party SMS party vendors only if the tracking, reporting and optimisation stitched properly, especially those vendors who promise to leverage Airtel data. This will not have an impact on the SMS platform providers, who provide platform or SMS automation as a service. Unless they plan to have that has an offering up their sleeve. 

Gopa Kumar, Chief Operating Officer, Isobar India, remarked, “Airtel users will get much-targeted ads that are relevant to them and not spams. I think it will affect some of the stakeholders as things stand. With Airtel entering this space, rather than using third-party vendors many of the advertisers would like to engage with Airtel ads directly.”

According to Kumar, bigger players would enter this as they have better control over the data and can decide what ads to show in the overall ecosystem(in this case Airtel). “Yes, it will eventually lead to consolidation under bigger telcos,” he added.

Speaking the press meet to announce the launch of Airtel Ads, Adarsh Nair, Chief Product Officer, Airtel, had affirmed that the company’s ad-tech platform would break new ground in India’s $10 billion advertising market, which is poised to reach $19 billion in 2025. By then digital advertising would account for $8 billion in ad spends alone. Airtel’s entry into advertising may spur the other telcos who want to diversify their revenue channels.

Mehrotra added here, “Out of the remaining two major telecom players, Jio may be well placed than VIL to come up with this kind of offering because of the ecosystem which they offer in similar lines to Airtel.”


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